Everything You Need to Know About 3D Embroidery


Use your embroidery machine to make sturdy, three-dimensional cottages, castles, bridges, and even privies made out of fabric? Why yes, you can! You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make these unique toys that children will play with all year long. Keep reading to find tips, tricks, and everything else you need to know to use your embroidery machine to build Santa’s Workshop, Sleigh, carriages, wagons, a Candy Lane Cottage, and more!

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You Will Need

FABRIC – You will need 2 pieces of fabric for each section—one for the front, and one for the back.  The fabric for the back will show inside your project. In the castles and cottages, this fabric will be the “wallpaper.” By the way – you don’t need to use the highest quality fabric for these little structures.  Sometimes it’s nice to just find an inexpensive solid for your projects, and let the embroidery shine. 

BATTING – For each section, you will need a piece of Quilter’s Batting (batting that comes in a sheet) that you can cut to size.  I like to use inexpensive batting like this kind. The batting will give the pieces texture and trap the dissolved stabilizer to make them nice and stiff.

PELLON – You also need one piece of Craft Fuse 808 Pellon for each section, which will help make each section rigid.  Fuse the Pellon to the fabric that will go on the back of your hoop (or inside your project). I like to buy it by the bolt here.

THE PERFECT SNIPS – I strongly recommend these snips!  They have a serrated edge, they cut fabric all the way to the tip, they’re easy to pick up and use, and they’re nice on hands with join pain because they’re easy to squeeze.

EMPTY BOBBINS – The backs of your panels should look as pretty as possible.  For each thread color, you will need to use matching embroidery thread in the bobbin, so have lots of empty bobbins on hand.  If you use metallic thread, you can use embroidery thread that closely matches in the bobbin. 

SEAM RIPPER or X-ACTO BLADE and TWEEZERS – You’ll need a sharp tool to open all of the tab slots, and a pair of tweezers will come in handy when trimming thread tails.  Even if your machine cuts threads for you, you’ll still have thread tails on the back that you’ll need to trim away. I like these and these.

EMBROIDERY DESIGNS – Click here to find loads of 3D goodies to make! And click here to find The Charming Collection by A Bit of Stitch.

Before You Begin

Use the SMALLEST HOOP – Always try to use the smallest hoop that will fit the embroidery design.  You can combine designs and place them in a larger hoop, but this can lead to loose stabilizer, outlines that don’t match up, etc.

USE WASH AWAY MESH STABILIZER -If it looks like saran wrap, it’s the wrong kind.  If you’ve ever bought stabilizer for freestanding lace or for an heirloom project that didn’t wash away as well as you’d like, pull it out and use it for any of my 3-D buildings. You can find my favorite wash away stabilizer for 3D projects here.

PREPARE YOUR FABRIC – Make sure to pre-shrink and iron your fabric before you begin.  This is a must before starting any project. 

USE THE RIGHT NEEDLE – Use a size 80 or 90 SHARP embroidery needle.  Size 70 needles will break, and anything larger than a 90 will perforate the stabilizer. I almost always use a size 80 needle for all of my embroidery, unless I’m working on special fabric.  If you use Organ needles, you can find them here.

Hoop Etiquette

HOOP YOUR STABILIZER SO IT IS TAUT. No need to stretch it, but it shouldn’t have any wrinkles or saggy spots. Now if I could only rehoop my skin…

TIGHTEN YOUR HOOP SCREW. We don’t want any loose screws! 😛  The inner ring can come loose if you forget to tighten your screw, and there’s nothing more frustrating than accidentally unhooping your design before it’s finished.

HOLD THE HOOP BY THE HOOP.  When you hold the hoop so that your fingers are touching the stabilizer, it will loosen the stabilizer and make it impossible to get a nice, clean stitchout.

Take your hoop out of your machine and place it on a hard, FLAT SURFACE whenever you need to add or trim fabric. 

Ready, Set, Go!

Once your stabilizer is hooped perfectly, embroider the placement line, which shows where to place the fabric.  Remember to use matching embroidery thread in the bobbin  Check the front and back of the hoop, and make sure the stitching is nice and tight. Loose stitches will result in a sloppy design, so adjust your tension if necessary before embroidering the next step. By the way, I’m using pictures of one of the sections of my Fairy Tale Cottages in this post.

Place the fabric fused with Pellon on the back of the hoop.  Make sure the Pellon is against the stabilizer so that you will see your pretty fabric when the panel is finished.

Place the batting over the line on the front of the hoop, then place the fabric over the batting.  Make sure that all of the pieces cover the placement line completely!

Gently hold the fabric and batting in place as you embroider the cutting line (this line shows you where to cut the fabric later).  You don’t want tucks or wrinkles in your fabric.  Do this carefully – you don’t want to bump your hoop or impede its movement in any way.  And you don’t want to sew your finger, which I’ve done when I’m not paying attention.  If needed, slow your motor speed down for this step.  If you have a machine that lets you use the foot control with your embroidery module, use it!  My old Bernina will let me do this.

Next you’ll grab your snips and trim the fabric and batting around the embroidered line on the front of the hoop as close as you can without cutting the stitches.  Turn the hoop over, and trim the fabric and Pellon around the line on the back of the hoop.

Now you’ll embroider the stippling, finish, or whatever step is next in the design – follow the color chart included in your download.


If your needle breaks, it could be that you are using an old needle, the needle could have been bad to start with, or your thread might have been caught up on something.  Just insert a new needle and re-thread.  Check the bobbin case to make sure there are no broken needle bits in there, and reset the bobbin.  Restart your machine.  Go back about 10-20 stitches, and continue embroidering.

If your thread frays, shears, or breaks, you might be using old thread or a dull needle.   Insert a new needle and re-thread.  Reset the bobbin, and restart your machine.  Go back about 10-20 stitches, and continue embroidering.

If your needle is stitching where it shouldn’t be, you’ve most likely bumped your hoop (it’s so easy to do this without even knowing it).  Just restart your machine and let it recalibrate!

Clean the lint out from under your bobbin plate often!  I sometimes forget, then wonder why my machine isn’t stitching as pretty, or why isn’t it cutting threads properly, or why isn’t the bobbin thread feeding correctly… That pesky lint can cause all sorts of problems like misalignment, frayed threads, bobbin thread showing on the top of your hoop, etc.


The windows give the buildings character, and they are very simple!

Embroider the cutting line for the window, then place your hoop on a flat surface (your lap is not a flat surface😛). Use your snips to poke a little hole in the top fabric inside the window to get started. Once you get the cut started, and as you make a little more room, you can lift the batting to see where the stabilizer is.  Cut all the fabric and batting as close as you can to the stitching.  You don’t want to cut the stabilizer!

Turn the hoop over and trim the fabric and Pellon out of the window.  I use the tip of my snips to make a little hole, then I check to make sure I haven’t cut the stabilizer, too. If you accidentally cut the stabilizer, just take a scrap of wash away stabilizer and place it over the cut.  You can trim off a corner of the hooped stabilizer, or pull some out of the garbage can. Place the scrap over the cut on the back of the hoop, and continue embroidering the window.

After the rest of the embroidery is done, trim all those thread tails!  Your tweezers will come in handy here.  I like to do this while the design is still hooped. Trim most of the stabilizer away.  You don’t need to trim close.  I’ve accidentally run my rotary blade over a design and ruined it – eeps! Use a seam ripper or X-Acto blade to open any tab slots.  It’s much easier to do this while the fabric is still soft and pliable.  Rinse the panel under warm water just long enough for the stabilizer to dissolve.  You want to leave most of the stabilizer in the batting so the piece will dry rigid.

The Icing on the Cottage – er – Cake

My favorite part!  This is all the little trim like the icicles, shutters, railings, etc.  This is so easy to make – you’ll love it!

Just hoop two layers of wash away stabilizer. Make sure you have a plenty of thread and a full bobbin of matching thread. Once the embroidery is done, trim any thread tails on the back of the hoop. Rinse out the stabilizer (make sure none of the little pieces go down the drain), and lay them flat to dry. Quick tip – after you rinse these sections in your sink, let the hot water run for a minute to clear the plumbing of all that sticky stabilizer.


Finally – it’s time to put all the pieces together! The instructions in your design download will tell you just how each building goes together. Take a look at the video below to see how the Candy Lane Cottage is assembled.

A Few More Tips and Tricks

Our machines like our company!  Make sure to be in the room with it while it’s stitching.  The minute we leave, they like to misbehave!

Print the instructions that come with your designs! If you can’t print them, make sure to read them so you’ll know what to do and when to do it.

Keep your embroidery area clean.  I’m guilty of not doing this, and I have bobbins and thread spools sitting on the top of my machine.  They sometime fall off and onto the hoop! 😲  Also, keep any applique fabric, snips, tweezers, etc., off of your embroidery machine.  They can get in the way of the hoop and really cause problems.

I hope you enjoy making your own 3D goodies! You can find lots of fun ideas here, and please send pictures of your finished projects!


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